There are a lot of reasons to love travel — from the high-minded desire to explore new cultures to the hedonistic joy that comes with sleeping in a stylish room in a new city. Whichever of these two itches you’re keen to scratch, the face of travel has been forever changed by the advent of platforms like Airbnband VRBO. These sites allow people to curate an adventure that isn’t completely tied to the traditional tourism industry. The unique properties featured can have you living like a local without sacrificing comfort or amenities. Plus they tend to be more affordable, freeing up your travel budget for spending on more experiential pursuits.
With spring break approaching, Airbnb researched destinations with a sizable increase in bookings and determined some of the trendiest cities to visit in March and April. Using their picks as a jumping off point, we winnowed our own list of ten incredible cities to visit and picked our favorite Airbnb option in each. From the sun-soaked beaches of Mexico to the bustling metropolises of Germany, we have options that will have you cashing in your frequent flier miles (or scoping cheap flights) to book a trip.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is far more than an airport hub, it’s a picturesque locale known for its brightly hued colonial buildings and cobblestone paths. In fact, Airbnb notes an increase in bookings of 392% from last year. Visitors really should make the hour drive to El Yunque Rainforest, where they can explore waterfalls and lush jungles. And a trip wouldn’t be complete without relaxing beachside. The Isla Verde Beach is right in front of the El San Juan Hotel for people whose priority is easy access. Better yet, take a drive 15 minutes to Piñones, Loiza and walk along the beach until you hit Vacía Talega, a fairly private beach frequented by locals. Be sure to try some mofongo while you’re there. This dish of mashed fried plantains, fried pork skin, and a ton of garlic is often served with a protein, like ribs, and it’s pure Puerto Rico.
The Airbnb we’ve selected is one of our faves. First of all, this treehouse with a floating deck is a few steps from the beach, meaning you can maximize your ocean time. Second, it’s a genuinely cute little studio filled with eclectic vintage pieces and contemporary art, as well as a collection of ceramics from the owner’s travels. It has personality. It also has a shower on the deck, so you can enjoy getting clean outside but trust the frosted plexiglass doors to preserve your modesty. There’s a communal garden shared with the guests in other rentals, so be ready to make international travel friends. Or you can hang in the hammock and seating area on your deck and chill solo.
Less than 50 miles from the capital of Sao Paulo, Santos is its own unique city that draws visitors from around the globe. In fact, research by Airbnb shows a 432% increase in bookings from last year. Many people are drawn to the beautiful beaches, clear water, and stunning seashore garden. At 3.3 miles, Jardins da Orla da Praia offers visitors a chance to walk or bike through some gorgeous foliage that sits side by side with the ocean. There over 800 flower beds, making this not only a place that pleases the eye but makes a great setting for travel photos that will excite your followers. In addition, Santos boasts the Marine State Park of Santos, which is 27 miles out and offers nearly 20 miles of visibility for people looking to dive and snorkel around a rocky reef and a shipwreck.
Santos is also home to the Brazilian Palace of the Official Coffee Stock Exchange, which means you have to take a visit and do some sampling of the beverage that was the country’s primary export for decades.
Our Airbnb pick is as modern apartment one block from the sea. From the windows, you can see the tides and smell the fresh ocean air. With a loft bed and a sofa, it sleeps two couples, so make it a group trip or ball out and keep the whole space to yourself. Located in Boqueirão, a residential neighborhood, these lodgings are walking distance from rows of shops and services, so you can spend a lot of your time cruising the beach and still do some window shopping without having to arrange any transport. You can also save a few dollars by cooking in the apartment — how ideal is that?
Marrakech is a city with great history. Dating back almost a thousand years, it boasts pink palaces against a background of the snowy High Atlas. But this isn’t some dusty relic. The blending of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East makes for heady energy that will have you making friends everywhere you go. Be sure to go to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, where you can watch snake charming and henna tattooing. Take breaks to try traditional lamb dishes and glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Then make your way to a Hamman (local bathhouse) for an exfoliating massage, a dip in a chilly pool, and a steam in the sauna. Prices might vary, but rarely will it cost more than $25.00. On the northeast end of the medina, you will find tanneries, and if leather goods are something you are into, you should go and see how both leather clothing and accessories are processed. It’s a completely fascinating experience.
Sure, you could stay in a hotel, but why would you if you could instead set up house in a riad medina that comes with a private pool? The space is large enough for six people with three full bedrooms and three baths. There’s also a large living room with a fireplace and a rooftop area you can use for chilling, eating, or photographing the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Plus, your host comes in daily to make you breakfast as part of your stay. You can use this time to ask her to help you plan your outings and answer questions. For an increased cost, you can get lunch and dinner prepared, but it’s likely more fun to eat as you work your way through the city.
All right, we know that you are gonna hit up some of the city’s coffeeshops for some of that weed. You’re probably gonna make your way to the red-light district to see all the sex work too. We get it. These aspects of Amsterdam are fairly well known, and they give most American travelers the feeling they are doing something naughty. Who doesn’t want that? However, there are equally cool aspects of this centuries-old city that aren’t so touristy. You can take a free ferry from Centraal Station to NDSM wharf to find yourself in Noord, a cool urban neighborhood that is home to Pllek, a beach bar and music venue. It’s a little more fun in summer when they light bonfires and set a festival feel for late night revelers, but it’s a genuinely good time year-round. Noord is also home to Europe’s largest swing, and your Instagram followers will never forgive you if you don’t snap some pics.
Our Amsterdam choice is an absolutely gorgeous loft with wood paneling, exposed brick, and tiny details throughout. It’s a third floor unit in a building that dates back to 1882. Much of the original structure remains but it has been accented by more modern details to give it a luxe feel. It was literally designed by one of Holland’s internationally renowned visual artists, so this should hardly come as a surprise.
You might think Berlin is the place to be in Germany, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Berlin is freaking awesome. But Cologne (Germany’s fourth largest city) is also fresher than wet paint. The increase in Airbnb bookings from last year is 164%. Plus it’s really easy to get around on public transportation, meaning you can see the entire city for a relatively low price and without hassling with cabs or transportation apps. The biggest draw for tourists is the Cologne Cathedral, a World Heritage Site and one of the country’s top attractions. If you want to walk up 500 steep steps in an iconic church, have at it! There’s also a lot of value in walking through Ehrenfeld, one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, to look at the street art and public art pieces done by creatives from across the globe. In September, the annual CityLeaks Festival takes over a lot of the space for exhibitions, art tours, and performances, making it a great time to visit if a spring break trip doesn’t pan out. Be sure to chow down on some traditional kölsche cuisine at Früh am Dom.
The Airbnb we’ve chosen for Cologne is a vibrant apartment that’s centrally located. The color scheme heavily features safety orange, which we think makes for a nice break from the white walls. The flat was renovated in 2012 and it is located on the fourth floor. It’s a walk up, so people with physical limitations should be cautious. The neighborhood is surrounded by bakeries, a grocer, and tons of bars, supermarkets, and restaurants. You will want for nothing.
Dapa, which has experienced an increase in Airbnb booking of 380% since last year, is located on the Siargao Islands, which are known as the Surfing Capital of The Philippines. If you’re looking to catch some waves, this is the place to do it. You can easily rent gear from a number of local companies. If you aren’t planning to hang 10, there’s still a lot to do here. The whole area is rather simple, meaning you won’t get trapped in tacky shops or cheesy restaurants surrounded by other tourists. Instead, you’ll explore a laidback locale with lots to please nature lovers. Spend time exploring the pristine white beaches, lagoons, caves, coral reefs, waterfalls, and rock formations. Consider taking advantage of the crystal-clear waters and doing some diving. Blue Cathedral, Casulian, and Shark Point are all known for their abundant marine life and underwater caves. If you’re staying on land, be sure to visit the Dapa Public Market, buy some extremely fresh fish, and take it to a local restaurant to have cooked. There’s a local barbeque called Sameplace Grill that will prep it to order.
Siargao has a fair number of nontraditional lodging options, but we think this unique beachfront farmstay located a half hour from the main tourist drag is exceptional. It’s nestled in the fishing village of Salvacion and has sea views. You’ll be wowed by the open air bathrooms, complete with hand carved Tiki sink and water buffalo faucet. The farm mostly produces coconuts, but there are also fruit trees and some animals on the property. You can even ride their water buffalo if you like. Ride. A. Water. Buffalo.
Todos Santos, Mexico
A couple of years ago, people started flocking to Todos Santos in droves. Some people go there to surf the breaks, which are some of the best in the country. Others are all about wandering cobblestone streets to poke their heads into tiny artisan shops. And a whole lotta people just want to knock back drinks at the long wooden bar inside the Hotel California (no, it’s not the namesake for the song). But it was the Hotel San Cristóbal’s opening that suddenly made Todos Santos attractive to the stylish traveling set. They came for the photogenic boutique hotel in a big way. You can stop in if you want to grab some cool snaps for your Instagram. Also great for the ‘Gram is taking a hike to the top of Punta Lobos, where you’ll find stunning views of an abandoned fishing post that’s now home to a sea lion colony. There are some fancy restaurant in town these days, but we say eat at Taqueria El Parguito — where you can get the best fish or shrimp tacos you’ll ever taste. Plus it’s inexpensive.
Our Todos Santos selection is a real dream. This two-bedroom beachside cabana has enough room for five guests and has two bathrooms. It couldn’t be more perfect for grabbing a gang of friends and heading down together to surf and party. This comfortable cottage has a private path that leads you straight to the beach, meaning you can go when you please and soak up the sounds of the waves the entire time you’re chilling inside. It’s also part of a working farm and they invite you to wander around and grab produce to eat.
Byron Bay, Australia
People have loved going to Byron Bay for ages. In the 70s, it was all about having dreadlocks, a tie-dyed garment or two, and a blissed out stoner grin. It was very much a hippified beach destination, and those roots are still obvious. These days, the vibe is more boho — with a stunning visual sense being almost a requirement for owning a cafe or B&B. If you’re keen to do some surfing, the Shipwreck, the Pass and Wategos are all great spots. The Pass is a long, peeling right — perfect for beginners.
Swimmers will also like Wategos but may prefer Broken Head and Captain Cook’s. Snorkelers should head to Main Beach, which has a wreck about 300 feet offshore that’s fun to adventure around (when the waves aren’t breaking). We also dig the fact that the city has multiple markets for visitors to enjoy. Try the Byron Market on the first Sunday of the month, the Farmer’s Market held every Thursday, and the Artisan Market on Saturday evenings.
This Airbnb pick is a super chill studio that demonstrates quality, not quantity. It’s not a big space, but the Scandinavian vibe throughout makes it sleek and modern without feeling impersonal. Just outside the bedroom door is a relaxing garden with a wall of bamboo for privacy. Start your day with coffee in this special space, then take a walk 15 minutes right to the beach.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a blend of cultures. You’ll find Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and traditional African beliefs all coexisting in this large city crowned by Table Mountain National Park. Considered one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, this park should definitely be part of your trip. Can you really say you went to Cape Town without climbing to the top of the city’s highest peak? The cliffs of the main mountain are split by Platteklip Gorge (“Flat Stone Gorge”), which offers a do-able, direct ascent to the summit.
When you aren’t being a hardy mountain adventurer, you gotta go gin tasting. The city’s gin scene is out of control with nearly a dozen distilleries operating. You’ll be sure to find rare varieties like rooibos and fynbos — which are endemic to Cape Town. After sipping some gin, you might feel like exploring the party scene, which is alive and well. Try Orphanage, Arcade, or Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar for drinks. First Thursdays usually mean live music, so look into local clubs and bars to see what they are showcasing.
The Cape Town Airbnb on our minds is a bright and open studio in the center of town. Despite the energy of the neighborhood surrounding this dwelling, it’s located on a very laidback street, meaning you can access all of the restaurants and bars you want to and still sleep soundly through the night without drunken loudmouths waking you up. Sliding doors let in wafting sea breezes and there are sexy design touches throughout.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A lot of people think New Orleans is all about Mardi Gras, but the city is actually much more than that. Want to get weird? Visit a local cemetery — where tour operators lead lovers of the occult through these resting places for the dead. Another great place to pick up some culture is the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which offers the world’s most comprehensive collection of masks created for ceremonies by African slaves and their descendants.
When you’re ready to let loose, be sure to enjoy a drive-thru daiquiri. If you don’t have a car, at the very least order a big ol’ hurricane and take it in a to-go cup. It’s not New Orleans if you aren’t drinking in the street.
Our Airbnb pick is a 150-year-old cottage within walking distance of the French Quarter (where you can grab a hurricane no problem), and it even comes with free bikes so that you can explore the Big Easy without the cost of Uber or Lyft. The architecture is a dream. Seriously, it’s like staying in a décor magazine. The high ceilings make it feel airy and free, while the stunning wooden archways ground it historically. It’s both cozy and stylish simultaneously.